Yesterday I was flying to Dallas for a conference and sat next to a woman from Boston. We got to talking about business and she shared with me that she works for a company that was just acquired by a larger firm. When I asked her how it was going it became clear that she wasn't thrilled.
Listening to her talk about the situation I realized that there are predictable, dangerous, and avoidable things companies do in these circumstances. Failure to communicate is one of the biggest. They keep information close to the vest instead of sharing plans, ideas, vision with all parties - especially the staff from the company that was acquired. This silence causes a lot of stress. Couple that with the firing of key personnel and the psychological impact is really felt by the people who stay.
Failure to take the best of both organizations and meld them is another often seen problem. It makes me wonder why company A buys company B. What is it about company B that is appealing? Is it the client base? Is it a unique product or service? What is it? And why doesn't company A realize that it's the people at company B who created that client base, product, service?
I truly do not understand the thought process behind not sharing information or pulling people together. Business is about collaboration and this is especially true in a merger or acquisition. If I had the opportunity to counsel these business leaders I would say the following:
Please bring everyone into the communication flow. If your goal is to build a bigger, better organization you need everyone onboard. You will have a smoother transition with honesty and vision sharing. The vast majority of people desire clarity over consensus. You can't worry that what you have to say will upset some people. Quite frankly, there are few situations where everyone is happy. However, you CAN go a long way to promoting collaboration and success by being honest and open with your plans. Some people may leave sooner than you are ready for them to. However, you will recover from that more quickly than from a lack of cohesiveness and cooperation.
Set yourself and your staff up for success by telling it like it is. They'll respect you for it because you will have shown that you respect them.